Cultural Watch

Word of the Day – Caterpillar

(DICTIONARY.COM)

caterpillar/ katuh-pil-er, kat-er / noun

DEFINITION

A person who prey upon others; extortioner

CITATION

The caterpillars of the commonwealth, / Which I have sworn to weed and pluck away.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, RICHARD II, 1623

ORIGIN

Caterpillar has a complicated history. Late Middle English has catyrpel, catirpiller (and other variants). These are probably alterations of catepelose, an Old North French variant of Old French chatepelose “hairy cat,” from chate “(female) cat,” from Late Latin cattus (masculine) and catta (feminine) “cat” and pelose, pelouse “hairy,” from Latin pilōsus. The Middle English spelling with –yr– is probably due to association with cater “tomcat” (as in caterwaul “to utter long, wailing cries”); the final –er is probably by association with piller “despoiler.” Caterpillar in its original sense “larva of a butterfly or moth” entered English in the 15th century; the sense “extortioner” arose in the late 15th century; the sense “a tractor with two endless steel bands for moving over rough terrain” is a trademark dating from the early years of the 20th century, just in time for World War I.

Source: https://www.dictionary.com/e/word-of-the-day